parMEzian cheese

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Oct 1 16:46:03 UTC 2002

At 8:58 AM -0700 10/1/02, Peter A. McGraw wrote:
>I think "Parmesian" cheese must have been fairly widespread (oh all
>right--widely sprinkled).  I remember my father expressing annoyance at the
>pronunciation after we had bought some at a store (Southern California,
>late 40s or early 50s).  Now the invented "Parmesian" seems to have been
>supplanted by the equally invented "parmeZHAN" (as also noted by Peter
>Richardson), apparently via the line of reasoning: "To make a word sound
>more foreign, and hence more authentic, stress the last syllable, pronounce
>spelled <g> as 'zh' and ignore all other spelling cues."
>The first time I heard "parmeZHAN" was when I ordered Veal Parmigiano in a
>restaurant and had the waitress correct me (probably mid- to late 50s, in
The invented "parmeZHAN" pronunciation was standard in New York in
the 50s as well.  God knows why, since there were enough Italians
around, but no one in our neighborhood (Washington Heights, or later
Long Beach, LI) called it veal or eggplant "parmigiano" or even
"parmesan".  I could never figure out the reference either, since the
mozzarella always seemed so much more prominent than the parmesan in
the recipe, as cheeses go.

Oh, and on another thread:  I should mention that my response of
"Hang a roscoe" as the counterpart of "Hang a louie" was not NY-based
(although I am), but from mid-60's California, which is when I first
became familiar with the opposition.


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